Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Weekly Redistricting Update

Significant redistricting action occurred in the following six states during the past week:

CONNECTICUT (current delegation: 5D) – The Connecticut state Supreme Court adopted the “least-change” map it ordered their special master to construct. The new congressional plan cements the Democrats’ 5-0 advantage in the delegation.

FLORIDA (current delegation: 19R-6D; gains two seats) – With the new congressional map awaiting Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) signature, Florida law mandates that the state Supreme Court approve all district maps, and the high court already has announced a hearing schedule. The state will present its legal arguments regarding the congressional and legislative maps on Feb. 2. The Supreme Court must either approve the maps or send them back to the legislature for re-drawing purposes. If the re-map fails to pass legal muster, then the Court itself can re-draw the plans. Under Florida law, the governor does not approve or reject the state House and Senate maps. Upon passage, those go to the Florida attorney general who then presents them directly to the Supreme Court. This process has already occurred, hence the Court’s action in announcing the hearing schedule. Under the congressional plan, it appears that the Republicans will have 14 seats that can be considered safe to the Democrats’ eight. At the very least, this map will yield a Democratic gain of two seats.

KANSAS (current delegation: 4R) – The state House, over the objection of the body’s most conservative members, passed the congressional map and sent it to the state Senate. The main sticking point was moving the Democratic city of Lawrence, home of Kansas University, wholly within the 2nd District (Rep. Lynn Jenkins-R). It is unclear if the Senate will accept the map. Because of the change, the 2nd will become more Democratic, but freshman Rep. Kevin Yoder’s 3rd District gets a bit more Republican. Chances remain strong that the GOP will hold all four of the districts. Should the Senate fail to concur, the process will head to court if the legislative session ends without agreement.

KENTUCKY (current delegation: 4R-2D) – Both houses of the Kentucky legislature passed an incumbent protection map that will likely re-elect the state’s five incumbents standing for re-election (3R-2D) and give the Republicans the inside track to holding retiring GOP Rep. Geoff Davis’ 4th District. The map is basically a “least-change” plan, with no district gaining more than a 1.5% partisan boost for either Democrats or Republicans.

RHODE ISLAND (current delegation: 2D) – Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I) signed the redistricting bill the Democratic legislature sent him last week. The plan increases freshman Rep. David Cicilline’s (D) Democratic voting base. Thus, by process of elimination, Rep. Jim Langevin’s seat becomes a bit more Republican. Both districts, however, will likely continue to send Democrats to Washington for the rest of the decade.

VIRGINIA (current delegation: 8R-3D) – It appears likely that the Virginia primary will move. In order to give the state more time to handle the upcoming litigation over the recently passed congressional map, the state House of Delegates voted overwhelmingly to move the congressional primary from June 12 to Aug. 7. The Senate is expected to quickly follow suit. The state’s presidential primary will continue to be held on Super Tuesday, March 6.

Santorum Takes Michigan Lead

Yet another surprise is occurring in the Republican presidential nomination battle, a campaign where astonishing results are basically becoming the norm. A new Public Policy Polling survey (Feb. 10-12; 404 likely Michigan Republican primary voters) gives former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum a 39-24-12-11 percent lead over his chief rival Mitt Romney, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14), and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, respectively. Michigan, the state in which Mr. Romney was reared and where his father served as governor for two terms in the 1960s, has long been a stronghold for the former Massachusetts chief executive. Losing the Wolverine State would clearly deal the Romney campaign a major blow.

In one way, the polling results are not all that surprising. Reviving the manufacturing industry in the Great Lakes states has been a focal point of Mr. Santorum’s campaign. Michigan’s economy has been among the worst in the nation. It is the only state to actually lose population in the last decade, mostly due to a lack of employment opportunities. His manufacturing/economic message largely accounts for Santorum’s 67:23 percent favorability rating. This compares to 49:39 percent for Romney. Both Mr. Gingrich and Rep. Paul are upside down, with their negative ratings greatly surpassing their positive scores. Gingrich registers 38:47 percent favorable to unfavorable, and Paul is in an even worse position at 32:51 percent.

Florida Rep. Mica Switches Districts

The Florida congressional redistricting map still awaits Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) signature and certain litigation before the Florida Supreme Court, but that hasn’t stopped members and candidates from making political moves. Even though the redistricting process is far from complete, the fact that many are already making moves signifies that they believe this is the footprint for most of the state. Such is the case for Reps. John Mica (R-FL-7) and Sandy Adams (R-FL-24). The new map placed both incumbents homes in the same district, new District 7, a north Orlando suburban seat that has swing characteristics.

But the map is almost certain to change. The high court, known as one of the more liberal judicial panels in the country, must reconcile the differences between the ballot initiative that Florida voters passed in 2010 and the Voting Rights Act. Contradictions exist between the two legal directives mandated to drawing the Florida districts.

Mr. Mica’s decision to run in CD 7, as he announced he would do late last week, is a curious one. The new 6th District actually contains more of his current northeast coastal seat and has a better Republican voting base. He could easily run there and avoid the incumbent pairing. Ms. Adams even indicated that Mica told her he would do just that when the maps were originally released.

Additionally, the decision is more questionable because the voting history of the new 7th indicates that this seat could become competitive in the general election. Therefore, even if Mica secures the Republican nomination over Adams, he could still face a strong battle in November.

President Obama scored 49 percent here in 2008, though Republicans rebounded strongly in 2010. Gov. Scott posted 51 percent and Sen. Marco Rubio (R) recorded 56 percent within the confines of the new district boundaries. The seat is a combined 29 percent minority (African-Americans and Hispanics). By contrast, John McCain scored a 53-45 percent win in District 6 and Gov. Scott topped 55 percent. Additionally, Mica currently represents 72 percent of FL-6 as compared to just 42 percent of District 7. Adams represents 51 percent of the new FL-7.

Since the Florida map could still change significantly, it remains to be seen if this pairing actually comes to fruition, but the wisdom in forcing the confrontation will continue to be questioned.

Romney Squeaks by in Maine

Mitt Romney won a close Maine caucus victory over Ron Paul over the weekend, edging the Texas congressman 39-36 percent – a margin of just 196 votes. Rick Santorum, fresh from his sweep of the non-binding Missouri primary and Colorado and Minnesota caucuses, only managed 18 percent. Newt Gingrich was fourth with 6 percent.

Turnout for the Maine caucuses was typically small. Only 5,585 people participated, but that number is actually higher than 2008; four years ago 5,431 people attended the Republican caucuses.

Romney and Paul will likely come away from this latest presidential nominating contest with eight delegates apiece. Santorum appears to have notched four and Gingrich one. Three at-large party delegates remain uncommitted. As in most caucus states, the delegates will be officially apportioned at the district and state party convention, which, for Maine, will be held over the May 5-6 weekend.

The results underscore Santorum’s fundamental campaign problem. Due to a lack of resources that prevent him from organizing in all of the states, the former Pennsylvania senator has been unable to capitalize on his strong performance in Iowa, and then in the three venues last week. This flaw likely costs him the ability to overtake Romney. In fact, the financial and organizational advantages Romney possesses likely will be enough to outlast all others in the field.

The campaigns now move onto the Arizona and Michigan primaries, which are scheduled for Feb. 28.

New Mexico Senate: Sanchez Out, Wilson Clear

Lt. Gov. John Sanchez (R) dropped his bid to become the New Mexico Republican Senate nominee yesterday, thus virtually ensuring that former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM-1) will qualify for the general election. Sanchez was having difficulty raising funds and gathering sufficient support. Many believed he would enter the open 1st District campaign, but he decided against that political course, too.

Democrats still feature a primary between Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM-1) and state Auditor Hector Balderas. The battle, should it become highly contentious, could greatly benefit Wilson.

According to the year-end campaign financial totals, Wilson had raised $1.66 million with $1.064 million in the bank. Sanchez collected $581,710 and had only $109,638 on hand.

Rep. Heinrich is the top fundraiser. He pulled in $1.97 million and has $1.37 million in his campaign account. Balderas raised much less: $776,115, with $433,965 cash-on-hand.

Expect this race to be close. Considering the historical voting trends here, Heinrich, the likely Democratic nominee, will have a slight lead going into the general election, but a now unopposed Wilson will be quickly nipping at his heels.